Understaffing partly to blame in Dartmouth jail stabbing: union leader

Metro Halifax comments@cbpost.com
Published on June 24, 2014

DARTMOUTH - The latest jailhouse stabbing has been attributed to understaffing in Nova Scotia’s corrections facilities.

The Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union (NSGEU) President Joan Jessome said staffing levels are a major contributor to the eight jailhouse stabbings in the last year.

“Working understaffed in a corrections facility is very dangerous,” Jessome told Metro following a union meeting on the latest incident. “The job is dangerous and when you work short staffed we have a concern.”

A 39-year-old Glace Bay man was stabbed several times by five other inmates in the day room at the Central Nova Scotia Correctional Facility in Burnside. He was rushed to hospital with life-threatening injuries and there is no update on his status.

Jessome said the corrections staff who responded to the stabbing worked quickly.

“The officers did a phenomenal job,” said Jessome. “They were there in literally seconds.”

A source has identified the victim as Thomas Ted Barrett who had been transferred to the Burnside jail to await a Halifax court appearance scheduled for Monday.

Barrett is facing two counts of second-degree murder in Cape Breton related to the deaths of Laura Jessome in 2012 and Brett Elizabeth in 2006.

Bill Smith, the province’s executive director of correctional services, would not speak specifically to the stabbing incident, however he explained when an inmate comes into a corrections facility there’s a compatibility assessment done, coupled with individual knowledge about the offender.

“Generally, it’s a tool that’s used across the country,” said Smith. “We have a reasonable amount of confidence in it.”

The stabbing has launched an investigation both by police and the Department of Justice, in accordance with protocol.

“Our investigation will look into what happened prior to this specific incident,” said Minister Lena Diab. “What happened at the time and what we can do differently to prevent this from happen again.”

The department’s fact-finding mission is policy focused, and will likely not result in the motive behind the stabbing being made public.